SUPER BOWL WATCH: Catching counterfeiters, brotherly advice, Driver retires

Around Super Bowl XLVII and its host city with journalists from The Associated Press bringing the flavor and details of everything surrounding the game:



Shop wisely when looking for those Super Bowl souvenirs.

Federal officials have seized more than 163,000 counterfeit items worth more than $13.6 million over the last five months as part of Operation Red Zone, John Morton, director of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, said. That's a "significant" increase from last year, when about $5 million worth of merchandise was seized.

"Everything from hats to jerseys to Nike shoes. My personal favorite is this counterfeit Super Bowl ring from Super Bowl XLIV," Morton said, holding up a massive gold ring. "It's actually quite heavy and a better counterfeit than most. Just goes to show you the lengths people will go in this business."

Equally troubling are websites selling counterfeit merchandise, some so sophisticated they include anti-virus logos and the seal of the Better Business Bureau — making them almost impossible to tell them apart from legitimate vendors.

Morton said federal officials have already seized domain names of 313 web sites, almost all of which originated overseas.

"Imagine what's going on when you're putting your credit card through this site. Really think about that," Morton said. "The site is being run by overseas criminals in Asia.... You can imagine what the result is, and sadly many, many of these sites come with malware and other unfortunate ornaments on the Christmas tree."

The easiest way to make sure fans are buying legitimate merchandise is to buy from an official vendor, Morton said. Each team has one, as does the NFL.

But the best way fans can prevent being scammed is to use common sense, Morton said. Look closely at items, and there will be signs they're fakes. If there are extra words in a website address — — or misspellings, that's almost always a dead giveaway.

"We're not letting up," Morton said. "We'll have teams out the next couple of days looking for counterfeit and scam artists."

— Nancy Armour —



Casinos in the Biggest Little City in the World are expecting a bump in Super Bowl betting this year thanks to 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, maybe enough to help Nevada set a record in wagering on the game.

Kaepernick played college football at Nevada, just down the street from casinos in Reno.

Now, most of those casinos are offering an especially large number of proposition bets on the quarterback.

Kaep-mania has run so rampant in Reno that sporting goods stores can't keep stocked in jerseys. More than 7,000 fans set what Nevada officials said was a world record when they all simultaneously kissed their arms "Kaepernicking style" during a break in last week's basketball game against San Diego State.

A Kaepernick viewing party is planned during Sunday's game at the student union.

— Scott Sonner



The players can focus on football now — they're officially done talking to the media.

Ravens safety Ed Reed was the last guy at the podium on Thursday. After he finished talking with reporters, he scooped up a blue placard with his name on it.

"I'm going to give it to my mother," he said.

He said he's very glad that his interviews are done for the week.

Players had three hourlong sessions during the week, and Reed had another press availability on Monday.

The coaches for the 49ers and Ravens will speak with reporters again on Friday morning.

— Paul Newberry —



Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh and San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh are hardly the only high-profile siblings who've squared off in their arena of expertise. The AP is asking some others who can relate how they'd handle going against a family member in the Super Bowl.

Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez said after scoring 21 points in a loss to the Miami Heat on Wednesday night that it's a combination of joy and competitiveness.

"I know they're just going to treat it as a game. That's how I treat it whenever I play Robin," Brook Lopez said. "I know they will enjoy it as well. But if I have any experience playing against Robin growing up, I know it's going to be competitive. I know they're going to want to beat each other."

Brook's brother, Robin, plays for the New Orleans Hornets.

— Brian Mahoney —



The way Jack Harbaugh tells the story, Jackie Harbaugh was so shocked by her eldest son's decision to choose coaching over a career in law or politics, she fell face-first into a dish of mashed potatoes.

See, Jackie Harbaugh loves political science and politics. And as a political science major at Bowling Green with a high grade-point, John Harbaugh seemed headed for law school.

"Jackie was so excited about it," Jack Harbaugh said.

But both of the Harbaugh boys had been bitten by the coaching bug early. The practice fields at Iowa and Michigan were their playground, and they knew more about coaching before they got out of grade school than some veteran assistants.

"He came home one day and we're sitting around the table and we're having dinner. Jackie says, 'John, what law school will it be?' John said, 'Mom, I think I want to try coaching,' Jack Harbaugh said. "To which Jackie went facedown into the mashed potatoes. She said, 'What? Coaching? You've got to reconsider!'"

That's not exactly what happened, Jackie Harbaugh said.

"May I tell the truth? There were no mashed potatoes," she said. "When he came home and talked about (coaching) and I saw that look in his eyes, my feeling was, you have to do what you want to do. If you want to try this and see where it takes you, that would be great."

Seems like he made the right choice. After making the playoffs in each of his first four seasons, John Harbaugh has the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl on Sunday, where they'll face his brother Jim's San Francisco 49ers.

— Nancy Armour —



How about some home cookin' in the Big Easy — as in 150 plates of it to feed a football team? That's what Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones' mother, Emily, presented the Baltimore players for dinner this week at the team hotel to kick off Super Bowl prep New Orleans-style.

"Gumbo, jambalaya, potato salad, bread pudding, macaroni, the whole nine yards. She made 150 plates," Jones said. "All they kept saying is she put her foot in it. I love it."

That's a real compliment around here.

Now, Jones might give his mother a break.

"I'm going to let her be. I might buy me some crawfish or something."

And he knows all the best spots in New Orleans to get it.

— Janie McCauley —



Packers wide receiver Donald Driver has announced his retirement, ending a 14-year career as Green Bay's all-time leader in yards receiving and catches. Only quarterback Brett Favre has played more games in a Packers uniform.

In a team statement, Driver says: "I played my entire career in Green Bay and have always enjoyed a special bond with the fans. ... I can think of no better way to retire than to celebrate with them and the Packers organization."

Driver was slightly less formal on Twitter: "It's been an amazing journey, thank you for all of your love and support! (hash)Packer4Life"

Driver's key career statistics: 743 receptions, 10,137 yards, 61 touchdowns. He had seven seasons with 1,000 or more receiving yards.

— Nancy Armour —



Ray Lewis is retiring to spend more time with his family. Matt Birk is still playing, in part, because of his.

The Baltimore Ravens center is 36, and he and his wife have six kids. When Birk contemplated retiring after last season, his family was supportive, knowing they'd have him around a lot more.

Then they saw what that would be like.

"In the offseason, I'll be home for a month or two and they'll be like, 'Isn't it time for you to go back to work?'" Birk said. "I like to try to get involved, and they have a rhythm at home. When we have the re-entry period in the offseason, where I'm home a lot more, there's always a few bumps."

— Nancy Armour —



San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick set an NFL record for yards rushing by a QB in a playoff game, gaining 181 against Green Bay on Jan. 12.

But don't forget — the kid can throw, too.

Actually, he really zips the ball, showing off a right shoulder honed in part by his days as a baseball pitcher who threw 90 mph and was drafted by the Chicago Cubs.

Maybe throws a football a little bit too hard on occasion.

"I talk to him about a little less mustard all the time. (There's) a lot of velocity on the ball," 49ers tight end Vernon Davis said. "Colin is always in the weight room. If you want to find Colin, go to the weight room."

— Howard Fendrich —



San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver is reversing course after saying he wouldn't welcome a gay teammate.

Culliver now says that's "not what's in my heart" and he was "just kidding around."

The cornerback apologized to the city of San Francisco for remarks he made earlier this week to comedian Artie Lange.

— Paul Newberry —


EDITOR'S NOTE — "Super Bowl Watch" shows you the Super Bowl and the events surrounding the game through the eyes of Associated Press journalists across New Orleans and around the world. Follow them on Twitter where available with the handles listed after each item.